Hoarding syndrome is real. It’s a recognized psychological condition and people who suffer from it often undergo huge loss, pain, suffering, and even family breakups. In fact, there was even a high-rated TV show on the TLC Network from 2010 until 2014 that focused on the condition and brought awareness to the widespread psychological trauma that millions of people endure. The name of the series was Hoarding Buried Alive.
In addition to checking out the linked episode, it’s a good idea to know about the official medical condition related to hoarding and learn what you can do if a friend or loved one shows symptoms of this serious illness.
The Reality Show
You can watch the full episode from season 3 of the TLC TV series “Hoarding Buried Alive.” It’s important to understand that the series was a reality show, not a fictional drama. It used real people who actually suffered from the syndrome and followed their trials and tribulations as they struggled to live and get help for their condition.
The show was one of the first times a national TV network offered a serious, non-fictional look at the problem, which very few people knew about at the time the series made its debut.
The episode you’ll see if you click the link is from season 3, and its title is “I Was Gonna Gag.” Often, even though the topic is quite serious, the show’s producers chose lighthearted, realistic titles to draw attention to a particular episode. In “I Was Gonna Gag” we are introduced to a man named Floyd, who lives in a trailer with his two young children. The problem is that Floyd has amassed so much junk over the years that his place is not fit for keeping a young child.
Unfortunately, a neighbor notifies the Child Protective Services and, eventually, Floyd is faced with the choice of losing his son or getting rid of all the junk in his trailer home. The dilemma is typical in many ways for compulsive hoarders. They often face a legal choice that involves losing custody of a child, moving out of a condemned residence, or something similar. One of the best things about the TV show was that it educated the public about the very real problems that can take over a person’s life when hoarding becomes a problem.
What Is “Hoarding Syndrome”?
One of the best resources for learning about hoarding is the website of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). Not only can you discover what the syndrome is, in easy-to-understand language, but you’ll see a full listing of the warning signs. The experts, doctors, and psychologists who contribute to the website explain, in short, that hoarding is simply a person’s inability to get rid of possessions, no matter what the value of those possessions might be. It’s not about greed, or just holding onto expensive things you plan to sell later on.
Instead, hoarding has nothing at all to do with the economic value of the items, but only with the fact that the person won’t give them up. There are a lot of ways that a person can develop the condition, and it’s often related to the inability to “pass up a great deal,” get something for free, or find a “perfect” item.
The psychological roots of hoarding are complex and can only be sorted out by a licensed therapist. Often, the initial cause of the syndrome traces back to a traumatic event in a person’s childhood, a disastrous emotional relationship, or even an abusive parent or guardian. There’s no single explanation for why someone becomes a hoarder anymore than there’s a single reason someone develops a phobia of spiders or bees. Every individual is unique.
However, there are some common signs and symptoms to look for if you suspect that a loved one suffers from hoarding syndrome or might need professional help, namely:
- Feeling overwhelmed or enduring intense discomfort due to having so much stuff
- Getting very anxious and nervous when trying to thrown an item away
- The total or near-total inability to get rid of anything
- Having a tough time organizing or putting your possessions into categories
- Great amounts of difficulty when it comes to putting things away
- Not knowing what to keep and what to throw away
- Becoming uncomfortable when other people touch your property
- Actions and thoughts that become obsessive, namely worrying about running out of something
- Constantly looking in your trash for fear that you accidentally threw away something you wanted to keep
- Decreased living space due to having too much stuff
- Developing problems in your marriage or family due to having too much stuff
- Social isolation
- Medical or health problems associated with the extreme accumulation of items
- Financial problems from spending so much money acquiring more and more things
How To Get Help For Yourself Or Someone Else Who Suffers
If you think you suffer from hoarding syndrome, or if you have a loved one or friend who might be suffering, the main thing to remember is that you need to seek professional help. No matter how good your intentions are, you need to get yourself or your loved one to a professional counselor.
Keep in mind that many people will deny they have a hoarding problem and will resist your help. This is to be expected and is very common. In those situations, do your best to either convince the person to attend just one session with a counselor, or get a professional to come to them.
In many ways, hoarding is like so many other psychological challenges that people face every day. Things like compulsive gambling, alcoholism, the inability to sleep, eating disorders, out-of-control phobias, and more. If you’re able to understand that hoarding is a legitimate medical condition, it’s often easier to seek help and recover.
The good news is that most people who do seek help with a hoarding problem are able to fully recover in a short time. The danger is procrastination. The longer the problem goes on, the longer it takes to recover.
Study the list of symptoms above, watch the linked video episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive, and take the time to decide whether or not you, or someone you care about, needs help. Then, get help as soon as possible by contacting a psychologist, social worker, or social service agency in your local area. There is a way out, but you have to search for it.